ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - More South Carolinians are getting "Back to Work" thanks to a program through SC Works.
It started out as a way to help homeless individuals find employment, but the program is expanding to help even more people and on Friday, Orangeburg honored its first graduating class.
"It is a great day in the city of Orangeburg," says Mayor Michael Butler.
This was a first for Orangeburg. The pilot program began in Columbia back in 2016.
Deborah White is a regional manager with SC Works Regional Manager. She describes the "Back to Work" program as, "a five-week boot camp where the individuals go through training as far as life skills. We talk to them about resumes. We help them with interviewing. We also help them with basic computers."
Those behind the program say Mayor Butler was a big part of the success here in Orangeburg, offering up his church to provide computers and internet access for "Back to Work" participants.
The program is not just for those experiencing homelessness, but any barrier to employment.
"It can be anywhere from having a criminal record, to having lack of transportation, childcare issues and it can just be, 'I just don't know how to look for a job," White said.
One of Friday's graduates, Russell Harrison, says he was skeptical about the program in the beginning.
"At first, I wasn't really interested in the program, because I didn't see the value in it," Harrison said.
Harrison was persuaded to join the class by his mother, another one of today's graduates.
"Recently, our community has been suffering with murders and things of that nature," Harrison said. "So, being able to come into a positive activity where it will strengthen not only me but the community, as well – I felt like it was a wonderful opportunity. Take advantage."
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg District 66 delivered the closing remarks.
"There are three words I would like you to remember - in spite of. You can succeed in spite of where you live, where you come from. You are on your road to success," Cobb-Hunter said.
There was a total of four graduates taking part in today's ceremony. One of them could not be there because Friday was his first day at a new job. In fact, three of the four graduates have already found employment.
Participants are referred to the program through the Department of Social Services or various faith-based organizations. To learn more about how to get involved, just visit this website!